Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has issued an “executive order” that would raise the base pay of all city employees to $15 per hour by 2021.
It is an order in the sense that it directing the city finance director to submit legislation calling for the raise to city council for approval.
Reading from his order at a Nov. 10 press conference surrounded by fast food and other service workers, Peduto noted that the federal minimum wage can not support a family.
“The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour equals a yearly gross income of $15,080, not nearly enough for a full time worker to live without public assistance, let alone raise a family or own a home,” he said.
“What we need is an ‘Economy for All’ in which all workers, starting with those working for the City of Pittsburgh, are provided with the level of pay they deserve. Nobody who works a 40-hour week should have to live in poverty.”
The order would affect about 300 non-union city employees—all of whom are paid well over minimum wage (starting around $11 per hour)—and would phase in base pay raises beginning next year with a hike to $12.50 per hour.
Base pay would increase again to $13.75 in January 2019, and finally to $15 in January 2021.
The order parallels calls across the nation for a $15 minimum wage, and the work of Pittsburgh Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess whose wage committee recently convened public hearings to ascertain the level of poor wages in the city.
Also like legislation Rev. Burgess introduced in 2010, Peduto’s order calls for any firm doing business with the city to also pay the mandated wage to its employees.
Reverend Burgess’ 2010 legislation was tied to an identical Allegheny County measure. That legislation received serious pushback from nonprofits, and small and minority-owned businesses that contract with the county, mostly with the Department of Human Services. It was defeated and the city bill died with it.
This time there is no such coupling with county legislation. Doris Carson Williams, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce, said the move could be detrimental to small and Black-owned companies seeking to do business with the city, and comes at a time when the mayor said he is working to improve such opportunities.
“I know where the mayor is coming from, but my concern is while many of these firms are truly working to elevate their business to the point where they can pay the $15 per hour—and I’m not sure they are there,” she said.
“We have a lot of owners where that’s beyond their thresholds—they aren’t making that themselves. If it were over a certain dollar amount maybe, but when you’re low man on the totem pole, it’s a problem.“
Rashad Byrdsong, president and CEO of the Community Empowerment Association, has a contract to maintain vacant lots owned by the city and its Urban Redevelopment Authority in Homewood, but it is now much smaller than in year past.
“I have no problem paying a living wage and currently do,” he said. “But if salaries are to increase, so should the value of the contract. There’s no room for higher salaries if the contract isn’t increased. That needs to be part of the discussion, don’t you think?”
If enacted, Peduto estimated the pay increase would cost the city about $150,000 in the first year, and would have to be added to the budget and approved by the Act 47 oversight board.
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